A story told by Ramam, with some inputs from me. He began the story saying there was a crocodile and something got stuck in it's teeth. The crocodile wanted to remove it. I asked him how to go about it and he suggested using a tooth brush. I said neither the crocodile has hands or tooth brush, We had recently read a passage on invention of tooth brush, where earlier people used animal hair for the brush. So he suggested we use tiger's hair and the lion could brush the teeth for the crocodile. The story ends with a simple " Thank you" and "welcome" by the crocodile and lion respectively.
The sentence board has a long story to it. It had its humble
beginnings with a carpenter going about the simple task of cutting a piece of
plywood at home. However a lot of foresight, planning went into it. Frankly
speaking the sentence board was way ahead of its time. It was
my hubby’s idea. Soon the board was ready and therein began the task of deciding
what words Ramam would want to use in his everyday life.
quick inventory of his favourite food, activities, and objects was taken. This
was easy, we were just looking at nouns.
I am a pro at this, having done this inventory taking with various
therapists trying to teach him various things such as making choices, language,
fine motor skills. Then came the verbs, adjectives, phrases, (I want, I don’t want,
please give me). And then a long list of all the helping verbs, prepositions,
conjunctions… soon the ambitious project was already weighing us down. Then
came the task of sorting and then putting them in boxes labelled it as nouns,
verbs all of course colour coded to make life easy for ram. We were finally
ready with the board, the cards with affixed Velcro.
Then came the task of getting him to
use the board, but that was surprisingly the easy part, he took to it easily. He
soon began to wear us down with the same requests every time. Somebody came up
with the brilliant suggestion rotate the cards, so that he knows these are the
choices available to him. So every day morning I set about doing this meticulously.
A pouch was made and hung next to the board so that he could put all the used
cards and no they were no longer available to him during the day.
Before long, the house was full of these
cards. I have no idea how it happened. Ramam started playing with these cards. If I remember
right he started pulling out the cards from the pouch and started playing with them.
My husband would shout, “I found them lying here!”. The maid when sweeping
would hand over few cards. Much later I realized there were other parents also
who shared similar experiences. The cards had become playthings but we were not
to give up easily.
lugged the board through three transfers. I no longer have the cards with me,
but the much weathered board now has a place of pride in his study room. One or
two cards do pop up sometimes at the bottom of some box and we reminisce about
those days. I made a different set of cards but this time the purpose of the
board is different. It is a sentence construction board. I have made a set of
cards specific to a picture we are going to talk about. The cards are all of various sizes, not
color-coded…. but are serving the purpose. And Ramam enjoys the activity. An hour just whizzes by.
Addition sticks where he is given various permutation and combinations for a numbers say 5 (5+0, 4+1,3+2). He has to put the correct stick in the cup.The cups have been labelled with the numbers. Good idea for independent activity.
I started with 6 talking sticks ,( That's what they have been named) but Ramam wanted to add more variety to it. Had an unexpected holiday yesterday and as both kids were at home, tried this talking sticks idea. I keep this sticks upturned . They pick up one stick, read the instructions and do accordingly.
The think then jot bookmarks is a wonderful idea . I tried
this with Ramam on two stories we have read. Right now of course he needs a lot
of prompting. There are some days I am excited about an idea and wait for Rama to be
back from school . I want to try out the ideas and see how well they work for
him.Yesterday was one such day. Luckily he got a project book as a
return gift in school for a birthday party and we immediately put it to good use.
I tried to do an activity loosely based on this idea, with a
hotel visit of his. Asking him what picture did he have in mind when I said
hotel . He came up with the answer masala dosa. I asked him did he rethink his
order when he saw other customers eating different stuff. He said yes. Then has
he had a wow moment in a hotel? Probably when he had his first sizzler or a
falooda, or an interesting presentation of food. He was listening so intently. It
is at a very basic level, but again this organiser give me a path to lead a
conversation with him, till he actually
begins to actively take part in the conversation.
I have been trying to make a transistion for ramam to the
early chapter books. Here a list of some
of the books that Ramam has been reading in the process….
Snail and the whale, Stick man, room on the broom, Jack and
the flum flum tree all four by Julia Donaldson.
The little critter series.
Postman Pat series.
Amelia Bedelia series.
Tikki tikka Tembo .
A chair for my mother.
Cherries and cherry pits.
Step into reading level 3. This series has both stories and
nonfiction titles as Christopher Columbus, early inventions.
Milly Molly Mandy.
Alexander has a terrible no good horrible day.
Fatuma’s new cloth. This book gives you an insight into East
These books generally have good illustrations and help with the
narration. I have tried pairing these books with language activities mostly
making use of graphic organisers. I have fallen in love with these organisers
as they help you answer the basic wh questions. There is much more to story
telling than just narration and some relevant questions. Sequencing, discussing
feelings, especially how the character feels at some point in the story, has
Ramam experienced similar feelings, comparing and contrasting physical
features, mental abilities. It has been a huge learning for myself too.
been using the Venn diagrams to compare and contrast the characters in a story,
what is similar and dissimilar between two characters in the story. Yesterday
was reading an Aesop fable so we did a language activity based on comparing and
contrasting an oil lamp and the sun.
This is again another wonderful website for reading
Sentence construction with jumbled sentences, deconstructing
a sentence into 3 parts- the beginning part, middle part and last part. I-like
to play-in the park
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/ is a website where educators, buy, sell
and share materials. I found it useful
for lesson plans some of which are paid and some free for the stories I have
This is another
website where one can read online books for free.
gathered this much in that apart from doing things like doing a picture talk on
say cars, boats, having this lttle tidbits of information as to Columbus sailed
out for the East indies in his three boats, or Henry Ford designed his first
car Model T, broadens their horizons. So when he has to talk about say car, I
ask him which was the story you read about a car?
also following it up with him doing sketches on the stories he reads.
I tried some witch stories to see how he likes fantasy tales. Tried a story of how a girl misplaced her shoes. and wears chicken subs for footwear, how the teacher and other kids also misplace their footwear and wear different things.His look was a mix of disbelief and surprise.
This is what Ramam said he would like to carry for lunch.
2 samosas,2 cookies, mango lassi and custard apple. All neatly packed in a red lunch box.
It is a far far cry from what I send him!!!
And according to him this would be an ideal dinner
Grilled chicken, KFC burger, French fries and coke.
reading a book from the series Amelia Bedelia. The books are about Amelia,
whose intentions are good but is a
little foolish. In the story Amelia is asked to stake the bean poles, but she
ends up tying steak to the plants. I showed Ramam what staking a bean pole
means, and explained steak to be a kind of meat. So in one of the reading
sessions when he got the meaning, he chuckled when I read out this passage.
The other night I was trying to
educate my daughter on the names of dishes unique to Kerala Iyers, because it
can get embarrassing when we have guests. Somebody tells her to pass a bowl of
something and she would give them an "I don't know which one" look.
Ramam was listening to this ongoing conversation. I then said Rama's turn and
asked him what this is? Although he knew the right name, he kept grinning and
told me something else. I tried this 2-3 times and realized with his limited
language abilities he was cracking a joke.
Many think people on the
spectrum do not have a sense of humour. That is not the case, however people on
the spectrum may have difficulty understanding certain types of humour.
Understanding humour requires ability to understand innuendos, social norms.....
Social interaction itself wearies them down.
Although an individual on the autism spectrum may, with sufficient time,
be able to reason himself or herself to the humor in a situation, this process
is often less intuitive than it is in the general population.
quote from Autism society of America, to help people on the spectrum, different
approaches may be tried as explicitly explaining the joke, learning to
appreciate non-verbal cues, telling what it is safe to joke about. Genuine
attempts by the caregivers’ to appreciate the person’s humour, pointing how a
repeated joke can be a kill joy, helping the person appreciating his own sense
"Several studies consistently conclude
that individuals with ASD are able to enjoy simple forms of humor such as word
plays or simple verbal and visual jokes and film clips. Thus, the ability
to resolve incongruities, which is viewed as the core cognitive process
required to appreciate all forms of humor, is intact in individuals with ASD.
However, individuals with ASD have difficulties with understanding more complex
forms of jokes, especially if they have to attribute (false) mental states to
one of the protagonists portrayed in a cartoon (for example), or difficulties
with humor which is embedded in social contexts and for which understanding it
is necessary to read subtle (nonverbal) cues in others."- The people's science
However, it is surprising
how autism weaves humour into our lives. More so a sense of black humour. What
might sound offensive or politically incorrect to an outsider may very well be
acceptable for us. So we end up sometimes mimicking Ramam's phrases, like when sleepy
he says "I want to cuddle and go and sleep “or when stressed out
I say " I have a sensory overload”. Or when we have a behavioral
issue, my husband will ask me what is the technique to use here, ABA, RPM, CAP,
CPM, RET..... and I would be frowning at him.
when I saw a child giggling for no apparent reason, his mother told me he was
probably recalling something humorous now. Quite possible. If you were to the
question to a person on bio medical interventions, he would attribute the
giggling to excessive yeast, phenolic foods in the body. If you ask a
behavioural therapist, the giggling could be an attention seeking behaviour and
by responding you would befeeding into the behaviour. An occupational therapist may
see reasons to look at it as a sensory dysfunction and might put the child on a
sensory diet. Ha! Therapy speak. I love it. The reasons may be one of these,
some of these or none of these. And so it goes on and on. But at the end of the
day you have a problem and it needs to be resolved. If you actually sit down
and think about it all, one could have a one big laugh. And as we survive
autism with a healthy dose of humour and a dash of madness, I leave you with some quotes on autism humour.
staring, it might cure my child's autism - then we can work on your social
sound of rain devastated him but sounds
of tonka trucks thrown off the balcony is great fun!
You might be
an autism parent if your child hates noise but is the loudest person you know!
You may be
an autism parent if after discovering an act of anarchy you cannot but help the
planning and fine motor skills....
This is my fourth post under the label understanding autism better.
People on the spectrum , have difficulty processing visual information . In other words they have visual perceptual difficulties.
Relating to a personal experience I had with Ramam recently prompted me to choose this topic. I was working on Ramam calling out numbers for a game of tambola/ housie. In a game of tambola the person call out numbers from 1-100. The participants are given tickets and they score out the numbers called out. He would read the number correct but would place it in the wrong place and sometimes vice versa.
As Ramam called out the numbers I realized he was reading the second digit of the two digit number wrong , although number identification was not an issue. I put this across some Fb groups and I had a set of probable reasons as to why this must be happening. Some of the reasons cited were verbal apraxia, visual difficulties, lack of the concept of the units and the tenth place. All of them gave me enough to think about. By a process of elimination I set about trying to find out the cause.
So them I made a larger board, observed his play more keenly. I realized he would call out 8 as 0, call out 71 as 11 , call out 82 as 28. I have been now making him practise on this larger board, without actually playing a game. There is no hurry , I let him scan the board more leisurely to place the number on the right slot. I see there is a definite improvement.
Visual processing difficulties are of various types, and these difficulties are encountered in everyday living.
Visual discrimination issues as mixing up letters numbers as Ramam writes d for b, w for m.
Visual sequencing issues such as skipping words or lines when reading, difficulty in copying a sequence.
Complex shape copying and directional issues .Pattern drawing , rangolis are some of the activities undertaken to help resolve this issue.
Copying from a black board so as to retain the place and information on the board and then write it on a page in the notebook.
Pouring liquids from one container to another, which was earlier an issue
Handwriting issues such as spacing, overlapping of words,
Visual sequential memory as in remembering a sequence of numbers or a phone number.
Difficulty in identifying the foreground and background of a picture,
What started as an effort to make him participate in a social activity had me looking at visual processing difficulties more closely. Everytime I see Ram trying to get it right ,I feel very proud of the effort the boy puts in to overcome the obstacles.
These are the pictures of the board I used earlier and the one I use now.
Ramam wanted to play with blocks , he wanted to pitch a tent to be exact. So I told him we need poles to pitch a tent. He dashed off and came back with 3 wooden sticks. I realized
he had picked it up from my husband's tool box along with some screws. Never knew he could think this ahead.
So he set up the 4 poles. Put a napkin cloth on the top. Isha added her bit, tied a small princess to the poles. Soon we had an one eyed monster waiting to gobble her up. The monster slept in the open on his bed. They soon wanted a house for themselves , that subsequently turned into a railway station. The last pic is the train chugging into the station.
"There is simply silence. Unconscious, unobserved, uncomplicated, quiet. Left alone, I could spend days in this silence". These are those moments of silence I enjoy with Ramam, knowing we are there for each other, not a spoken word just sitting next to each other. These are time I wish the world we live is a less complicated place ,there are no demands and expectations,and never does the unexpected happen. A utopian world for our kids!!!
Welcoming you all to the first post of 2015
May it be another year of hope, persevarance and courage for all of us.
Before you know 2014 is over and we are into mid January. Time flies and this is one thing one always should bear in mind.
In most FB groups there is the concept of sharing the progress one makes with their child in that week.Its called differently by different groups, some call it Friday celebrations, Friday gains.
I think this is a wonderful idea as you set yourself small micro goals that are achievable . Every complex task can be broken into simple steps. This is just an example of how simple the goals can be made.
One of Ramam's therapist suggested this to me for his social skills. Call home a small group and the only goal you set for Ramam that evening is he opens the door for the guests. So these are small steps one takes for those giant leaps. Every activity requires huge planning with our kids but is well worth the effort.
Striving for independence in all his daily living activities , is another generalized goal I have set for Ram this year. Be it independently able to make 2-3 dishes,getting ready to school. Ramam has this huge problem of being feed back dependent. It puts a spoke in all his activities.
On that note of hope and concern wish you all a wonderful year.